Best guitar iPhone adapter and app combo?
January 16, 2019 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm buying a guitar for a beginner and would like to also pick up an adapter so they can plug right into their iPhone to play with various guitar tones/pedals/etc. What's the best combo of guitar ➡️gizmo ➡️iPhone ➡️app for a non-pro?
posted by gwint to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The iRig 2 and iRig Pro do this just fine.
posted by umbú at 8:30 AM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like the Line6 SonicPort, though it's more expensive than a beginner's guitar. The iRig 2 is good enough and cheap enough, especially with the AmpliTube app.
posted by holgate at 8:32 AM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

IRig is the big brand. But I have found their products incredibly badly made and bad sounding.

I would instead suggest an inexpensive multieffects pedal into which they can plug their iPhone to jam along with tracks or use as a headphone amplifier. I love the Zoom G1on for $60 (or G1Xon with an expression pedal for $30 bucks more) as a “Swiss army knife” practice tool. I’m a professional guitarist with expensive pedals, but that little Zoom is my go to practice tool at home when I want to play through headphones. It sounds great, esp if you also use decent stereo headphones like Sony MDR7506 for example. It’s got a couple of hundred built in effects patches to get started and some of them really sound good (“Brit Combo” for the win). And it has a looper and drum machine and a tuner and a metronome, all useful practice tools. Runs on 4xAA batteries or AC. Batteries last 8-10 hours. Best to use rechargeables.

Here’s the basic Zoom unit. For the price it’s a great choice for a beginner guitarist. An iPhone app will sound much crappier and make playing the guitar feel like everything else does on an iPhone. Constrained and artificial and gamified.

I’m sure other Mefi guitarists will disagree, but that’s my opinion.
posted by spitbull at 8:38 AM on January 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

Oh and then when they get an amp they can use the Zoom as their first effects pedal. Doing that via an iPhone interface is all kinds of suck.
posted by spitbull at 8:42 AM on January 16, 2019

I forgot to add the link above to the Zoom G1on pedal on Amazon. Here it is:

And the G1Xon with an expresion pedal (which is awesome and worth the extra $20):
posted by spitbull at 8:54 AM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really like spitbull's suggestion of dedicated hardware with fixed functionality (although that G1on looks amazingly full-featured and well-rated for the price!); as someone who learned to play on a no-frills solid-state practice amp that had nothing but Volume/Tone/Reverb/Overdrive knobs I find that guitar-on-iphone can be distracting and paralyzing because it's very easy to spend more time downloading and fiddling with endless apps and settings than it is to just play.

But, to your original question, I stumbled on a backdoor solution for connecting an electric guitar to an iOS device; I have an Apple USB to lightning adapter (they used to sell this as a "Camera Connection Kit"), and I have a 1/4" to USB guitar cable that originally came with the Rocksmith videogame. (The "offical" item was called the Rocksmith Realtone cable, but there are other various guitar to USB cables out there.) One day it occurred to me to try connecting Guitar -> Realtone cable -> Camera connection kit -> iPhone and it works great for me; clean audio, no perceptible lag. The two items together would probably run about $60.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 9:39 AM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Alternately I’d suggest just buying a basic small modeling amplifier that has built in effects and amp models and can be used for headphone practice (with a line in for a phone or other audio source) or with your iRig effects etc. but that allows you to hear yourself through a speaker, neighbors permitting. The Fender Mustang 1 at $120 is such an amp, and it will be useful for many years longer than any iRig setup you buy. I own one (I own a lot of amps) and it sounds great for what it is. In the end it’s only a few bucks more than an iRig setup (and they keep dinging you for new patches and effects and such anyway).

This assumes said beginner doesn’t already have an amp, of course.

Especially if said beginner is a kid, and you want them to keep playing the guitar, give them the option of playing loud and forgetting all about poking at screens for a few hours.

TLDR: play the guitar not the phone.
posted by spitbull at 10:16 AM on January 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Most amps these days have an additional 1/8" input so you can play a phone or tablet through them in order to play along. I agree that you're better off with an amp rather than having a distracting phone get in the way of practicing.

iRig and the like are more useful if you're planning to do recording, than for using the phone/tablet for learning guitar specifically.

If you really want a super portable setup, there are awesome tiny headphone amps which also let you plug in a 1/8" auxiliary cable for play-along-to-your-phone practice . I have a $15 one of those and some earbuds in my electric guitar bag at all times and it's great for silent practice.

For apps:
I'm not sure about apps for teaching a total beginner, but there are a lot of useful resources for training your ear so you can play by ear more easily as time goes on. The one I've used the most is Amazing Slowdowner- it's a phrase trainer that takes a section of a song you're learning and slows it down without changing pitch (and loops it over and over so you can practice tricky parts over and over).

Other apps that are useful in learning music include tuners, chord look-up apps, ear training apps which help you sing but also help you learn how to recognize different chords and intervals, which is relevant to guitar), music theory learning apps (I think there's a lot of stuff such as video lessons for piano and guitar that ship with Garageband on the Mac- I assume that's also true of Garageband on an iPad/phone).

There are apps that attempt to figure out chords to songs on MP3 or Youtube (most of these are browser-based sites with a subscription membership format, some have apps). You pretty much find those when you search for chords and lyrics these days- it's a super competitive field right now and the technology is getting better every year. Some of those include video lessons.

I believe I've heard that Anytune for iOS has some useful features such as the phrase trainer function I recommended Amazing Slowdowner for, and I think maybe a good metronome.

i'm not sure whether there's an app for this website, but they have a lot of very useful content in figuring out how theory works, all based on popular song examples on youtube :
There are tons of similar sites/apps doing much the same thing.

Right now most people listen to music via Spotify or YouTube so for 'learning by ear', it's probably best to find tools that uses those streaming resources rather than relying on MP3's.
posted by twoplussix at 12:39 PM on January 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've had a Focusrite iTrack Solo for 7 years of moderate use and much leaving out in somewhat dusty rooms, and it's held up well. It has jack and XLR inputs, sounds alright to my (admittedly not very discerning) ear and works perfectly well as a USB input/preamp for PC recording. I think it's a decent product and it has given me good value for money
posted by howfar at 3:32 PM on January 16, 2019

Yeah, an iOS interface or other preamp/interface is great for recording to your computer. But what hits me here is “beginner.”

Until this person is good enough to be recording themselves, the challenge is almost universally not to get frustrated or bored with the effort for the first year or two. If this person is young, which to be clear we don’t know but is often the case, well, I’m putting myself in their shoes and what makes it fun is being able to plug it in and make some noise, and to have the simplest possible setup towards that noise being cool.

I have been playing electric guitar for 45 years (my parents gave in when I was 9 and knew I was going to be a guitarist, although they made me take cello lessons as a deal, thanks folks!), and it is one of the most important things in my life, but I was a beginner once and I remember it, so I’m thinking with my heart.
posted by spitbull at 5:26 PM on January 16, 2019

I'd agree with spitbull that actual physical kit has value (and resale value when you grow out of it) that the interface and app approach doesn't. There's never been a better time for beginners: amps like the Mustang or Blackstar id:Core series provide good sound and good effects in a small and cheapish package, so that you can sound something like the songs you're learning. (My first amp didn't have reverb, and I missed not having it, but I also spent less time fiddling with effects and more time playing.) And the Fender apps for tuning and lessons (the latter with a subscription) are great.
posted by holgate at 9:08 PM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

« Older MacBook with a cup of tea dumped on it...   |   Have giant dog, will travel. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.